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National Youth Sports Safety Month: Some Progress, But Still A Long Way To Go

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By Brooke de Lench

A solid foundation 

When the non-profit 501(c)(3) National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) was formed in 1989, its mission was to provide information on the prevention of youth sports injuries. It got its start after Rita Glassman's young daughter Michelle suffered a severe back injury which ended her tennis career. Rita was the first to designate April as National Youth Sports Safety Month, which MomsTeam has been celebrating every year since 2001.

As I wrote in April 2012, when I first visited Rita and her daughter in their Boston office shortly after I launched MomsTeam in 2000, NYSSF and MomsTeam were the only organizations providing extensive and well-researched information on youth sports safety and injury prevention.  

Since then, of course, we have been joined by many wonderful organizations working hard to educate parents, coaches and caregivers of young athletes about safety issues. Websites have been launched to support safety products and services.  Countless others have jumped on the concussion "bandwagon," many in just the past four years. Others have started their own youth sports injury prevention organizations.

While MomsTeam has been on the cutting edge of a number of youth sports safety issues, most notably on the issues of concussions, but also on overuse injuries and early specialization, we believe in the old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and thus are thrilled that so many other groups and people have joined us. We know that because of our efforts kids playing sports are safer than ever before. We hear from parents and coaches all the time how much they rely on MomsTeam as the trusted source of youth sports parenting information.

But MomsTeam is a TEAM effort. Just like any great team, our staff works with our experts, guest contributors, scientists, doctors, athletic trainers, physical therapists, nutritionists and countless others to create the mix of timely and timeless content that make MomsTeam what it  is today.

Then and now 

Two years ago, in recognition of the efforts of so many who have helped to make youth sports safer, MomsTeam invited experts in the sports medicine field to contribute to a month-long special blog project called simply, April Is National Youth Sports Safety Month. I asked each to write a short blog answering two questions: first, how or why they got into their field, and, second, how they had made a difference in the life of a youth athlete in the past year.  We featured a new blog on our home page, posted the blogs on Facebook and Tweeted them out every day that April.  

That was then and this is, well, now.  A lot has happened in the world of youth sports safety in the past two years, some good, some not so good.

On the plus side, just to take concussions, for example, there is now greater public awareness not only about the dangers of sports-related concussions and how to minimize them, but, even more important (in our view) what needs to be done to do a better job of managing them after they occur, especially in terms of giving young athletes' brains the cognitive and physical rest they need to heal, and the developing recognition that a gradual return to a full academic day, dubbed "return to learn," is critical.   Every state in the country now has a concussion safety law, 47 modeled on Washington State's pioneering Lystedt Law, and the percentage of U.S. high schools with "access" to a certified athletic trainer has gone from about 42% to around 60%.

On the downside, it appears that greater concussion education has not translated into a greater willingness of youth athletes to self-report concussions due to what the Institute of Medicine report on youth sports concussions earlier this year memorably dubbed the "culture of resistance" (a culture MomsTEAM has been working hard to change for the past 14 years, although we gradually we are seeing some success to show for our efforts, especially as a result of our 2013 documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer," which is still airing on some PBS stations around the country.)

So, this April, as we again focus on youth sports safety, we are going to reprise some of the blogs from two years ago and try to sprinkle in some new ones.  For those of you who missed them the first time around, they will, as the saying goes, be new to you.  But even for those who read the blogs the first go-round, I just bet you will find them worth a second read, because, in so many ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same (or as the French put it, plus ca change, plus la meme chose). 

A word about the logo

MomsTeam April is Youth Sports Safety Month logo

As in 2012, every blog will feature a special logo which, as a graphic designer in a former life, I created with the help of Swiss designer, Radek Zmitko (updated for 2014, of course). 

The orange, green and purple carabiners have special meaning for me. When my triplet sons were young, I dressed them in red, green and blue. They loved to climb, and my son Taylor continues to climb at the elite level.  I think rock-climbers are among the most safety-aware athletes. The carabiners represent safety almost more than any other piece of equipment. Strong and durable, they are literally a climber's lifeline.   However, truth be told, I have never watched my son climb on anything steeper than a climbing wall. Yes, it terrifies me.

How can you help advance MomsTeam and MomsTEAM Institute's continuing mission of making youth sports safer?  By sharing posts with your family and friends whatever way works best for you (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus etc.).

If even one young athlete is saved from serious injury through this project, if even one person is inspired to go into sports medicine by reading how one of our experts got into the field, we will have achieved our goal.  Together, I know we can all make a difference in the lives of our sports active children!


Brooke de Lench speaking at United Nations February 2014

 Brooke de Lench is the Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Inc., Founder of MomsTEAM.com, author of Home Team AdvantageThe Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (Harper Collins), and Producer/Director of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Footbal Safer."   You can follow Brooke on Twitter @brookedelench or reach her via email @ delench@MomsTeam.com.